Solomon Baer Caplan was born in Latvia. His wife, Frances Brenner Caplan, was from Lithuania. They immigrated to Pittsburgh in the 1890s with their daughters, Ida and Sadye.
In 1901, Solomon Caplan established a wholesale leather business at 819 Fifth Avenue, in Uptown. The Caplans initially lived above the shop. As the family grew to six daughters and three sons, they moved to 35 Niagara Street, a nine-room house in Oakland. They had a grand piano and played Caruso on the Victrola. When the older sisters hosted parties, they would hang Japanese lanterns in the back yard. In 1926, the family moved to 5634 Northumberland, a 12-room house in Squirrel Hill. They drove through the winding roads of Schenley Park in a roomy 1922 Studebaker.
The business grew in the booming 1920s, selling leather and shoe findings, as well as belts and safety articles used in steel mills. Sol Caplan purchased a truck, which he used to make deliveries to small town merchants within 150 miles of Pittsburgh. The Great Depression hit the business hard. The family lost many possessions, including their home in Squirrel Hill. Caplan tried starting over in California, but the attempt was unsuccessful. He returned to Pittsburgh after only a few years and stayed for the rest of his life. His sons Samuel and Hyman Caplan maintained SC Leather Company from their father’s death in 1943 until they sold the business in 1958 to make way for Chatham Center.
Sol and Frances Caplan’s daughter Betty married the local architect Bernard Liff in 1938. Betty Caplan Liff volunteered for several local philanthropies and served as chairwoman of the National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section. Another daughter, Sarah Caplan, married Alvin Leff, who owned the BL Cream Company. The local dairy company is a division of Alber & Leff Foods, located on the North Side.
Frances Caplan was a first cousin of the sculptor Victor David Brenner, who designed the Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain, in the Schenley Park Plaza, and the Lincoln penny, which bore his initials for many years.